'Local' hero Ganesh Satish relishes Vidarbha leadership role

Ganesh Satish sends one rocketing through the off side PTI

Ganesh Satish eclipsed a 28-year-old record on Wednesday when he went past Samir Gujar's 221 to become the highest individual run-scorer for Vidarbha in first-class cricket.

The authority and decisiveness in his stroke play was the striking feature of his innings. When he was the final batsman to be dismissed for 237, he had opened up a 230-run lead for Vidarbha, a prospect that seemed far-fetched when he walked in at 40 for 2 and then saw Andhra leave them reeling at 61 for 3 on Tuesday.

"When I passed 200, I got a message from our video analyst that I wasn't far from the highest score for Vidarbha, so they wanted me to carry on and achieve that," Ganesh told ESPNcricinfo after the third day's play in Vijayawada. "Scoring off the backfoot was a wiser option, so very early on I decided unless it was an absolute half-volley I'm not going to driving on that wicket. But it wasn't unplayable."

Ganesh is one of the pillars of Vidarbha's batting, alongside Faiz Fazal, the captain, and Wasim Jaffer. When he came into the set up in 2014-15, he was already a Ranji Trophy winner with Karnataka, but the inability to nail down a permanent spot had him searching for other avenues. Today, he is happy to have made the tough call then.

Since moving sides, he has made 3274 runs in 50 matches at an average of 46.11, with seven centuries and 20 half-centuries. Ganesh attributes the consistency to the faith placed in him. Most importantly, he's been part of two back-to-back championship winning teams.

"Right from when I started, Vidarbha offered me a leadership role," Ganesh said. "I knew Faiz for a long time, he'd involve me in planning. My job with Faiz and Wasim bhai is to help youngsters, guide them and take the team forward. Initially, I was new and I wasn't too outspoken, but playing with the side for five seasons now has helped me understand people better. And has helped me as a player, too."

Ganesh is termed Vidarbha's own crisis man, who has the ability to draw on his reserves and grind attacks out. When he first moved here, he would often be hurt at seeing teams take Vidarbha lightly. Over time, he says the biggest source of his happiness as a cricketer has come from seeing how that perception has changed.

"If you see in the last couple of seasons, a lot of our boys are being picked for India A sides or Duleep Trophy," he said. "When we won the Ranji Trophy for the first time, everyone thought it was a one-off, but when we proved it last season, a lot of them said we were truly a force to reckon with. The fact that teams are taking us a lot more seriously now than they did four-five years ago is a big positive for us as a playing group."

Ganesh derives even more joy from being "treated as a local" and not "outsider." He is so local now that his team-mates only talk to him in Marathi. "I grasp most of it," he laughed. "I've never been treated as an outsider, I've been made to feel as one of their own. That makes you feel good from within. The fact that I've played with and against many of the current group at the junior level has been an added incentive."

Ganesh's most memorable days outside of their Ranji title wins have been the ones spent talking batting with Wasim Jaffer. It's an experience he won't trade for anything, and one that wouldn't have been possible if not for the Vidarbha stint.

"I hadn't played with him before, only against, so when I first heard he's joining us, I didn't know what kind of a person he was, someone of that stature coming into a young group and stuff," he said." As soon as he came in, he just clicked with all of us and it didn't take long to get to know him.

"He's easy to approach, always ready to help. The fact that he's playing his 150th game is a testimony of his commitment. At this age, to train and take every net session seriously is itself a lesson for a lot of us. The manner in which he takes care of his fitness, his approach to batting, his preparation, work ethic - these things have to be seen to be believed. I'm sure this is exactly how he would've been when he debuted 25 years ago.

"For me personally, it's all this that have been my biggest takeaways at Vidarbha so far. If today, I'm able to make big hundreds, Wasim bhai has played a big part in that, and for that I'll always be thankful to him."